Moving to Canada

“You’re leaving?” Robyn asked Patrick, her heart pounding and a feeling of dread overcame her.  “When?” He had just told her the awful news that he was leaving London and moving to Toronto.  The two cities were worlds apart.  The thought of never seeing him again was unbearable.  They had known each other since she was in high school.  He was there for her when her parents died in a tragic hit and run accident.  They were on their way to a restaurant for dinner.  They were going to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.  She had made the reservation for them just that morning.

At the time it happened, she was in a café having hot chocolate with him.  It was after he took her home and had left that she received the devastating news.  When the doorbell rang soon after Patrick left, she thought it was him and ran excitedly to the door and froze when she saw a police officer standing there instead.  She felt numb after he broke the news and after he left, she walked stiffly over to the phone.  She picked up the receiver and dialed Patrick’s cell number.  He answered on the second ring.  She had no memory of what she said to him but in about ten minutes he was at the house, holding her as she finally broke down.  The pain she experienced then at the sudden loss of her parents was similar to the pain she was feeling now at the thought of losing him.

“I leave in three weeks,” he told her quietly, his expression tense as he studied her face.  “I’m going to miss our conversations.”

“Is that all you’re going to miss?” she asked in a trembling voice.  The tears threatened to come and she blinked them back.  “Our conversations?”

His eyes darkened.  “No,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m going to miss you like crazy.”

“Then, why are you leaving me?” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now.

He reached out and cupped her face, his heart aching as he gazed down into her face.  “Robyn, please don’t cry.”

He must be out of his mind, thinking that he could fly off to another part of the world and leave her behind.  How could he when he loved her so desperately?  He had fallen helplessly in love with her five years ago when she went to the office to take her father to lunch and he introduced them.  He and her father enjoyed a good working relationship and after he retired, they kept in touch.  Several times Patrick was invited to their home for dinner.

After her parents died, Robyn and he became very close.  He loved her but didn’t know how she felt about him.  He knew she cared about him but it could be the kind of love she would feel toward a dear friend.  It tortured him to think that one day she would fall in love with someone else and he seized the first opportunity to leave London before that eventuality happened.  He chose Toronto because it was so far away.  And now, as she stood here, crying, he felt his resolve to leave weakening.

“I can’t help it,” she cried.  “I love you, Patrick.”

Groaning deeply and unable to help himself, he lowered his head and began to kiss her, his mouth moving hungrily on hers when he felt her response.  She hugged him tightly around the waist and pressed against him as she kissed him back wildly, her love for him gushing out.

The frenzy exchange of kisses lasted for several minutes and then he raised his head to look down at her.  “Come with me to Canada.”

She stared at him.  “Do you mean it?” she asked.  It was hard to imagine leaving the city where she was born and raised but she was willing to leave it for him.  She would go anywhere with him.  He was her life.

He nodded.  “Yes, I do,” he muttered thickly.  “I love you, Robyn and now that I know that you love me too, I can’t go to Canada without you.”

Her heart leapt with joy and Canada which just a few moments ago was the place that was going to take him away from her was to be their new home.   She put her arms around his neck, her eyes shining.  “I never thought I’d be happy to leave London.”

“Before we leave, I want us to get married.”

Her eyes widened.  “Married?”

“Yes.  I don’t want us to be shacking up.  We will get married on Saturday.”

Her head was spinning.  He loved her and wanted to marry her before he took her to Canada with him.  Her world which had seemed dark and dismal a few moments ago was bright and beautiful again.   Smiling through her tears, she pulled his head down to hers, closing her eyes as their lips touched.

 

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The Move Back

After moving to Montreal in search of more employment opportunities and living there for four years, Elise decided to move back to Paris.  Living in Montreal made her nostalgic for the little cafes she used to haunt in the Latin Quarter.  She missed her family and friends.  Most of all, she missed Jules.

She found out from his mother that he was living in Marais.  When she looked at the address, she saw that it was within walking distance from her parent’s home.  His mother was happy to see her and they had a nice, long chat.  Elise asked her not to let Jules know that she was back.  She wanted to surprise him.  After promising to visit again, she left.

She went home and took a quick shower.  As she got dressed, she wondered how Jules would react when he saw her.  The night before she left for Canada, they had dinner at a restaurant which offered a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower.  They talked about her move to Canada and after dinner, they went for a walk along the Seine River.  It was a beautiful night.  “Where will you stay?” he asked.

“I have an aunt who lives in Montreal.  I will stay with her until I find a job.”

He looked at her.  “I will miss you,” he said quietly.

She looked up at him.  “I will miss you too.”

“You will keep in touch, won’t you?”

“Of course, I will.”

They stood there for a moment, facing each other.  For a brief and maddening moment, she wanted him to kiss her.  “I’d better take you home,” he said.  “You have an early flight in the morning.”

Disappointed, she turned and fell into step beside him as they walked to his car.  They didn’t say much on the ride over to her house.  He walked her to the door and when they were standing out there, he reached down and hugged her.  She closed her eyes and hugged him back.  When he drew back, he stared down into her face for a long moment during which her heart was pounding fast and hard.  Then, he leaned over and kissed her.

It began as a tentative caress and then turned into a passionate kiss.  She reached up and gripped the sides of his jacket as she kissed him back.  This lasted for several minutes and then he pulled back and muttered, “Goodbye, Elise.”  Before she could say anything, he turned and quickly walked away from her.

She watched him go, her heart breaking.  Her parents were still up but she went straight up to her room and didn’t leave it until it was time to have breakfast before heading to the airport.

The next time she saw him it was in the summer of the following year.  She had no idea that he was in Montreal until he called her one afternoon from his hotel room.  Excited, she dropped everything and took a taxi over to the hotel.  She knocked on the door and it was opened immediately.  He smiled at her as she stood there in her tan colored jacket over a white dress, arms folded and grinning broadly.  Then she was throwing her arms around him, almost knocking him over.  “It’s so good to see you,” she exclaimed as they hugged.

“It’s good to see you too,” he said when they drew apart.  He pulled her into the room and closed the door.  Before she had a chance to look around the suite, his arms were around her waist and he was pulling her roughly against him.  “I’ve missed you so much,” he muttered thickly before he lowered his head and kissed her.  Elise’s arms traveled over his arms and found their way around his neck as she responded to his fiery kisses.

They ended up spending the rest of the afternoon in his suite and he ordered room service.  He spent three weeks which went by very quickly.  After that they saw each in the summer and over the Christmas holidays.

The knock on her bedroom door interrupted her daydreaming and she went and opened the door.  It was her mother.  “Your Aunt Lourdes invited us for dinner tonight,” she said.  “Would you like to join us?”

“Sorry, Maman, but I have other plans.  I’m going to see Jules.”

“So it is serious between Jules and you?”

Elise nodded.  “Yes, it is.”

“Well, I’m happy for you.  Jules is a very nice young man.  His mother did a very good job raising him.  I’ll see you later then.”  She turned to leave and then paused.  She looked over her shoulder.  “It is good to have you home again.”

“It’s good to be home, Maman,” she said.  When she was alone again, she quickly fixed her hair and checked herself in the mirror before hurrying out of the bedroom.  Five minutes later she was walking to Jules’ apartment building.

It was the last day in April so the weather was beginning to warm up somewhat.  The cashmere sweater she wore with the skinny jeans kept her warm and they looked great with her ballerina apartments.  As she hurried down the sidewalk, she hoped Jules was home.  He was.  When she rang the doorbell, she heard his footsteps and then the sound of the latch being pulled back.

He opened the door and started when he saw her.  His eyes grew wide.

“Surprise,” she said, laughing.

He stood there staring at her.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.  Then collecting himself, he took her arm and pulled her inside the apartment.  After closing and locking the door, he turned to look at her.  “Why didn’t you call or email me to tell me that you were going to be in Paris.”

“I wanted to surprise you.”

“Well, you succeeded.  How long are you here for?”

“I’m here for good.  I’m not going back to Montreal.  I moved back to Paris.”

“When did you move back?”

“This morning.  I’m staying at my parents’ house for now.”  He looked so cute in his white polo tee shirt and blue jeans.  “How many of these things do you have?” she asked, tugging at the sleeve.

“Too many,” he replied dryly.  He reached for her and pulled her against him, his eyes dropping to her lips, his parting in anticipation.  “Kiss me.”

“I thought you’d never ask,” she murmured huskily before she reached up and pulled his head down to hers.

Several hours later, they were relaxing on the sofa.  She was wearing his robe.  She turned to look at him, reaching over and running her fingers through his hair which was still a bit damp from the shower.  He rested his hand on her thigh.  “Why did you really move to Montreal?” he asked.

“I was trying to prove something to myself.  Growing up, I always felt so unsure of myself.  I was the gawky kid who didn’t think she was particularly good at anything.  In high school, I wanted to be daring like some of the girls but I didn’t have the guts to do it.  It changed when I was in college.  I was more confident because my academic excellence.  In a sense, I’m happy that I went to Montreal.  Being there made me realize that my identity is more than my accomplishments or my failures.  It’s who I am as a person.  I don’t see myself as awkward any more, just unique.”

“And I see you as the incredible woman I love and want to spend the rest of my life with,” he said reaching into the pocket of his robe and pulling out a small box.

Elise gaped as he opened it and revealed an exquisitely beautiful diamond ring.  “When did you…?”

“I bought it in January and was planning to give it to you when I saw you in June.  But, now that you’re here, I see no reason why I shouldn’t give it to you now.”  He slid off the sofa and got on one knee.  “Elise, will you marry me?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.  The tears in her eyes made him a big blur.  She felt rather than saw him slip the ring on her finger.  She brushed the tears away.  He got up from the floor and sat beside her again.  He pulled her onto his lap and his mouth found hers.  She put her arms around his neck, closing her eyes as she kissed him back.  She couldn’t wait to see her mother’s face when she showed her the ring.

 

Sources:  Interstude; Paris Insider’s Guide;

The Nursing Home

It was Saturday morning and Andrea was at the nursing home visiting Mrs. Alvarez, dear woman whom she met through her grandmother.  After her grandmother passed away, Andrea continued to visit Mrs. Alvarez who was always delighted to see her.  She was in a wheelchair and although she was ninety years old, her mind was a sharp as ever.  She reminisced a lot about her life in Buenos Aires and was always telling Andrea, to “go and visit.  You will fall in love with it.”

Mrs. Alvarez moved with her family to Canada when she was a teenager.  She went to University of Toronto where she met her future husband, Miguel. Miguel was from Madrid.  After dating for six months, they got married.  A year later, they had Mateo and then, three years later, Isabella.  Isabella now lived in New York with her husband and their three children while Mateo was here in Toronto.  He was still single.

It was four years ago when Andrea met Mateo the first time.  She and her grandmother were in the courtyard enjoying the lovely weather when Mrs. Alvarez joined them.  Mateo was pushing her wheelchair.   Mrs.  Alvarez introduced him to them, her face beaming.   Andrea smiled at him and when he reached over and shook her hand, they eyes met and held for several minutes.  He didn’t say much but was very pleasant and Andrea warmed to him immediately.

Since that first meeting, they  had been seeing each other at the nursing home. Sometimes she would still be there when he visited and she would observe him with his mother.   His attentiveness toward the elderly woman was so endearing.  He was a bit reserved, not much of a conversationalist but he was very knowledgeable and she found herself enthralled any time he said something.  His mother doted on him. They were very close.

“Mateo will be stopping by this afternoon as usual,” Mrs. Alvarez said now, interrupting her reverie.  “I will be sure to give him the slice of this lovely cake you baked.”  She was still eating her slice, clearly enjoying every morsel.  The crumbs fell on the napkin spread neatly in her lap.  “I used to love baking.  Miguel was always complimenting me on my baking.  He particularly loved my lemon squares.  And Mateo, he loved my banana cake.  Sometimes, I baked Argentine sweets and desserts like Arroz con leche which is a rice pudding and Cubanitos which were chocolate covered biscuit rolls.  Yes, the kitchen always smelled of baking.”

Andrea smiled.  Mrs. Alvarez was always going off on a tangent.  She had grown to love this dear lady and cherished their time together.

“My son loves you, Andrea,” she said suddenly, startling her.  “Yes, I can tell just from the way he looks at you.”

Andrea sighed.  “Then why has his behavior toward me changed?”  Lately, he seemed distant with her and whenever he showed up and his mother was not in the room, he would make some excuse and leave.  It was as if he didn’t want to be alone with her.  Once when they were alone, she reached out and touched his arm, he pulled it away as if she had burned him, his expression darkening.  He mumbled something and left the room, leaving her standing there, hurt and bewildered.  The next time she visited his mother, she told her about it and the old lady didn’t seem at all surprised.

“He thinks you’re too young for him,” she said now.

Andrea looked at her in frustration.  “I’m not that much younger than him,” she protested.  “I love him, Mrs. Alvarez.  I want to be with him.”

Mrs. Alvarez smiled.  “I know, Querida.  Don’t give up.  When two people are meant for each other, things will work out.”

Andrea stood up.  “I have to go now,” she said reluctantly.  “I am sorry that I didn’t get to see Mateo this time.  I was in the area and thought I would visit you earlier than usual.  Please say hello to him for me.”  She pulled on her jacket and her satchel.  She went over to Mrs. Alvarez who had by now finished her slice of cake and took up the napkin which she tossed in the garbage bin.  Then, she hugged the woman and kissed her on the cheek.  “I’ll come by again during the week.  Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”

Mrs. Alvarez patted her on the shoulder.  “You too, Querida.”

Andrea left the room and the nursing home.  She walked out to the bus-stop and waited for the bus to take her to the subway station.  As she sat on the bus, all she could think about was Mateo and how much she wished he would stop running away from his feelings.  She had half a mind to go over to his place now and confront him.  She glanced at her watch.  It was twelve-thirty.  He usually visited his mother around four.   She would be at his condo in about half-hour.  Yes, she made up her mind to go there and face him.  Her heart somersaulted at the thought.

Thirty five minutes later she stood outside of his door, nervous but determined. Taking a deep breath, she rang the doorbell, praying that he was home.  A sense of relief washed over her when she heard the lock slide back and the door opened. Mateo stood there.  A tentative smile touched her lips and then it faded when she saw the expression on his face.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“May I come in?” She didn’t want to have this conversation in the hallway.

He moved aside to let her go in.  After closing the door and locking it, he turned to her, his eyes wary as they met hers.  “Why did you come?”

“I needed to see you,” she said.  “Why are you so cold towards me, Mateo?”

He muttered something in Spanish and raked his fingers through his hair.  “Cold towards you?” he exclaimed, his expression darkening.  “When it comes to my feelings for you, cold isn’t the word I would use.”

“You’ve been distant with me lately and avoiding me.  I want to know why.”

“You want to know why I’m acting the way I am.  It’s simple.  You’re twenty-eight and I’m forty-three.”

“What does age have to do with anything?”

“For me it has to do with everything.”

“So, you are saying that you would rather see me with someone closer to my age?”

He closed his eyes then and a pained expression came over his face.  “It would kill me to see you with someone else,” he muttered tightly.

She took a step toward him.  “Mateo, I don’t want to be with anyone else.  I want to be with you because I love you.”

He opened his eyes, raw with the unbridled passion that shone in them.  Reaching for her, he pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  “Yo también te amo!  I love you too,” he groaned before he bent his head and kissed her.  She dropped her bag and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him back wildly.

For a long time, they stood there, exchanging passionate kisses until he raised his head and whispered, “Spend the rest of the afternoon with me.  I’ll call Mother and let her know that I will stop by and see her tomorrow.  I don’t think she would mind when I tell her that you’re here.”

Andrea smiled.  “I think you’re right.”

 

 

Sources:  Wikipedia; Spanish Dict

Unexpected News

“What is all the commotion?” Isabel asked as she removed her bonnet.  She could hear excited voices in the drawing-room.  She didn’t dare go in.  “Is Elsie in trouble again?”  Elsie was her youngest sister.  She was a bit of a wild one, always managing to get herself in trouble and sending their mother in a tizzy.

Amelia shook her head.  “No, it’s not Elsie this time.  It’s Mr. Hornby.”

“Mr. Hornby is here?”  Isabel felt her heart lurch.  She ran her hands over her hair and smoothed the skirt of her dress.  “Has he been here long?”  If she had known that he was coming over this afternoon, she wouldn’t have gone for a walk.

“Not long.”

“Why is Mr. Hornby the cause of such commotion?”

“It seems that Mr. Hornby has decided that he wants to move to Canada.  He had considered the possibility for a very long time.  He sails next month.”

Isabel felt the color drain from her face.  “He’s leaving for Canada?  Next month?”

Amelia looked at her in alarm.  “What’s the matter, Izzy?” she asked.  “You have turned white as a sheet.  Are you not feeling well?”

“I–I need some fresh air,” she mumbled.

“But you just returned from your walk.”

“I need some fresh air.”

“Perhaps you should go and lie down.”

“No.  I need to go outside.”

“Would you like me to come with you?”

“No–I would rather be alone.”  She quickly made her exit, leaving Amelia standing there, looking perplexed.

Outside in the garden, Isabel burst into tears.  She couldn’t believe that Mr. Hornby was leaving England and—her.  How could he leave without knowing that she loved him dreadfully?

She had known him since she was child and he had always been so kind to her.  He never made her feel like a nuisance and when she was a teenager, he never treated her like a child.  They had very stimulating conversations and she looked forward to his visits.  He seemed to enjoy it when she played the piano and would sit beside her with the newspaper open in his lap, pausing from his perusal of it to compliment her playing. She loved to play for him and didn’t feel a bit nervous at all. Sometimes, they would take turns reading poetry.  She could have sat for hours just listening to him recite the sonnets and the works of her favorite poets.  He had such a marvelous voice.

She didn’t know exactly when her feelings for him had changed but one day when she went into the library and found him there looking through one of the History volumes, she realized then that she was in love with him.  It didn’t matter that he was twice her age. To her he was the most wonderful and handsome man she had ever known.  She cherished the time they spent together and the fact that she hadn’t heard of any romantic attachment on his part with anyone, she hoped that this might be in her favor.  However, that could all change now.

Why was he going to Canada?  Why so far away?  Will she ever see him again?

“Isabel?” She hadn’t heard him approach her and was startled when he materialized beside her.  “You are crying.”  He gave her his handkerchief.

She took it and wiped her eyes and her nose.  “Mr. Hornby,” she said.  “Amelia told me that you were here.”

He frowned.  “Why didn’t you come and see me then?” he asked.  “When I arrived I was very disappointed to learn that you weren’t home.   Why didn’t you join us in the drawing-room?  I wanted you to be there to hear my news.”

She felt the tears coming again and she turned away so that he couldn’t see her face.  “I heard the news,” she said.  “Amelia told me that you are going to Canada.”

“I suspect that Amelia wasn’t in the room when I asked your father permission to marry his middle daughter and to take her to Canada with me if she would agree to it.”

She swung around to face him, her eyes huge with shock.  “You asked my father to marry me?” she could scarcely believe this.

“Yes.  I must admit that at the age of two and forty, I never imagined that I would be asking a girl half my age to marry me.  Isabel, I am old enough to be your father but my feelings for you far from paternal.”

“Oh Mr. Hornby, I had hoped that you would come to regard me as I have regarded you for the past three years.”

“Then, you will marry me?”

“Yes!”

“And you have no objection to moving to Canada and being so far from your family?”

“I admit that I shall be sorry to leave them and the house in which I have spent the happiest years of my life but my future happiness is with you.”

Mr. Hornby smiled and brushed his knuckles against her cheek, his eyes filled with the love that had long dwelt in his heart.  “I shall resolve to make you as happy as you have made me, Isabel.”

“I cannot imagine being happier than I am at this moment, Mr. Hornby.”

“Please call me Nigel.”

“Nigel.”  His name came out as a laugh and a sob as she was overwhelmed by the sheer happiness of this moment.

victorian gentleman and young lady at piano

Academic Streaming

“University isn’t the place for you.  You’re better off taking applied courses.  I can recommend some and where you can go to do them.”

When Carol heard these words, she felt as though her guidance counselor had picked her up and tossed her into the sea, leaving her adrift in the waves of emotions of disbelief and anger.  Why disbelief?  The same thing had happened to her sister and cousin.  Both had been told that they shouldn’t bother to apply to university because they wouldn’t be able to cope. And both had gone to university.  Her sister was doing her Masters in Psychology now and her cousin was a professor of Math.   Anger because the counselor told her this without even bothering to pull up her grades.

Carol was an A average student who wanted to go to university and get a degree in Biology.  When she mentioned her plans to the counselor, instead of encouraging her, she told her that university wasn’t for her.

There was a long silence as she tried to process what was happening.  The guidance counselor was busy writing something on a sheet of paper.  When she was done she slid it over to Carol.  “Here you go,” she said.  Carol glanced down at the paper.  It had a list of applied courses and the places where they were offered.

Carol didn’t say a word.  She put her book, papers and pen in her knapsack and got up. She didn’t take the paper.  “Excuse me,” she said and walked out of the office.

When she went home she told her mother what had happened and her mother said, “Don’t worry, Baby.  I will go to the school tomorrow and get you a new guidance counselor.  She did and Carol’s new counselor gave her a list of the best Biology universities in Canada.  She encouraged her with these words, “Now that you have proven to yourself that you have what it takes to succeed, work hard and see all obstacles as motivators to realizing your dreams.”

Carol is now at Queen’s University and loving every minute of it and she plans to get her PhD.   Academic Streaming is a real problem for students like Carol and many are encouraged to “stray away from realizing their full potential” because of racial bias. Carol knew that she was told that university was not for her simply because she was black.  She wants to be an advocate for students who might experience what she did and encourage them not to give up on their dreams.  She hopes the province is doing something to finally end academic streaming so that black children no longer face “an achievement and opportunity gap” in schools.

 

advising-pair

Source:  CBC; Queen’s University; The Toronto Star

Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

Making History in Science

Notes to Women congratulate Victoria Kaspi for being the first woman to win the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada’s top Science award in its 25 year history.  This long overdue win is a reminder that gender inequality is prevalent in Canadian Academia.

Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council who hands out the prize, acknowledged that this was a very important moment.  “It signals to girls and young women that Science is exciting and it’s possible to achieve the highest honour.”

It is unfortunate that it has taken this long for a woman to win this prestigious prize but Dr. Pinto believes that the reason for this is women account for only 14 per cent of the scientists who receive funding from the Research Council at the full professor level and only 9 per cent when the life sciences are excluded.

Dr. Kaspi was born in Austin Texas.  She spent her earliest years in the United States and Israel before the family moved to Montreal, her mother’s hometown.  Growing up, Dr. Kaspi did not have a particular interest in space or Astronomy.  She loved hockey and had an avid interest in logic and mathematical puzzles.  Her love for Science came when she was a teenager and took her first course.  She studied Physics at McGill and it was at Princeton University where she became interested in the work of Astrophysicist, Joe Taylor who would later win the Nobel Prize.  Dr. Kaspi worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before eventually returning to McGill and Montreal where she feels most at home.

Life is busy for Dr. Kaspi who is raising three children with her husband, cardiologist David Langleben which leaves her little time to do much else.  As a result, she has to work late into the night when she is better able to concentrate on her research.  It would be a tremendous weight off the shoulders of female faculty members if the universities would do more to support them so that they don’t have to choose between their professional success and family life.  When it comes to her research, Dr. Kaspi needs more flexibility. “Research is not a 9-to-5 job.  You get inspired, you have an idea, you’re dying to solve it, and within the confines of all these constraints that are imposed on you, it’s hard.”  At 48, she considers herself lucky that she was not a victim of the overt sexual harassment as a young researcher but is aware of the gender issues on campus.

We share the sentiments of Christine Wilson, a McMaster University Astronomer and President of the Canadian Astronomical Society who praised the selection of Dr. Kaspi as this year’s gold medal winner. “The fact that she is the first woman ever to receive the Herzberg Medal is the icing on the cake for me.”

Let us hope that it will not take another 25 years for another woman to achieve this honour.

 

 

Source:  The Globe and Mail